A Nerdy Shade of Winter

Posted: January 24, 2021 by Nazim in Episode!

This week’s episode involves Nazim, a Big Computer Boy, explaining the case of Google v. Oracle to Brett, a complete Luddite.  In addition to explaining fair use and its application to computer language, your boys also discuss Pokemon, Jurassic Park, Akira and Nintendo to keep things extra hip and cool.  The law starts at (07:20) and we’re happy to see you.

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Last RFRA-MAS, I Gave You My Heart

Posted: December 27, 2020 by Nazim in Episode!

Gather round, children, to hear the story of RFRA-MAS, as told by Brett and Nazim to a live google-hangout crowd.  RFRA Claus and Burwell the Elf discuss the history of RFRA, it’s current application in the case of Tanzin v. Tanzir, and then take audience questions.  The podcast is taking a holiday break, but will return on January 24th, 2021.  Merry RFRA-MAS to all and to all a good night.

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Listener Blumie highlighted that I (Nazim) was rather irresponsible in describing the impact of masks on coronavirus transmission rates. I apologize: wearing respiratory masks is absolutely the best way to decrease coronavirus infection rates in everyday situations, along with distancing and regularly washing our hands.

What I was trying to describe, and may have failed to, was the results of the large scale meta-study that compares the findings of 172 published studies on the factors that influence infection rates in real-world settings. Most studies track droplet propagation rates, or have small sample sizes, or perform tests in rather unrealistic laboratory conditions. Some of them even simply press a pipe against a mask and measure the transmission rate. The reviewed 39 studies track (among other things) the impact of masks on real-world infection rates. They provide this finding: “Face mask use could result in a large reduction in risk of infection (n=2647; aOR 0·15, 95% CI 0·07 to 0·34, RD −14·3%, −15·9 to −10·7; low certainty).” Those numbers are in line with what the CDC said, and also with my approximations. RD stands for reduction: it’s the difference between 17.4% (the risk of getting infected when not wearing a mask) and 3.1% (the risk of getting infected with a mask). That’s a reduction of over 80%, as the CDC says.

I was also mistaken when I said “low confidence interval.” I was erroneously referring to the certainty level, and here’s what the researchers say on that subject:

“The effect was very large, and the certainty of evidence could be rated up, but we made a conservative decision not to because of some inconsistency and risk of bias; hence, although the effect is qualitatively highly certain, the precise quantitative effect is low certainty.”

So, while it’s still the best defense we can use to decrease infection rates, in a legislative context, there is plenty of room to discuss what reasonable restrictions one should impose. However, as Blumie reminded me, masks (along with distancing and regularly washing your hands) are still the best everyday defense to decrease infection rates.

Cold News From Cold Dudes

Posted: December 20, 2020 by Nazim in Episode!

This week’s episode covers last week’s news stories involving the Supreme Court, including the election, COVID-19, the death penalty, and the census.  The law starts at (08:49), but you’d miss your invitation to the Citizen’s Guide to the Supreme Court Holiday Party. 

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This week’s episode discusses Texas v. Pennsylvania and Kelly v. Pennsylvania, the two recent failed attempts to reverse the election through the Supreme Court.  The podcast welcomes a Supreme Court expert to help analyze the heart of this issue, and then Brett and Nazim discuss Roman Catholic Diocese v. Cuomo.  Law starts basically from the beginning.

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Masterpiece Cakes 2: The Cakening

Posted: December 6, 2020 by Nazim in Episode!

This week’s case covers Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, which asks whether a Philadelphia law banning discrimination in the process of fostering children violates the First Amendment rights of a Catholic agency.  The law starts at (07:20), but you’d miss a real brain buster from Nazim.

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The Annual Thanksgiving Mailbag Episode

Posted: November 25, 2020 by Nazim in Episode!

Happy Thanksgiving, folks.  This year’s mailbag covers everything from pandemic oral arguments to best Thanksgiving pies, with a lot of things in between.  The law never starts, and this is light on law even for our standards.

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Takings Clause Me Home Tonight

Posted: November 22, 2020 by Nazim in Episode!

This week’s amazingly-titled episode discusses the case of Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid, which asks whether a California law that grants labor organizers access to private property violates the Fifth Amendment.  The law kinda starts at (11:00), but actually starts at (13:40), which is indicative of the legal focus in this episode.

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Brett “the Hitman” Kavanaugh

Posted: November 15, 2020 by Nazim in Episode!

This week’s episode covers the oral argument in California v. Texas, in which the Court once is asked to determine the Constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.  Brett and Nazim start the law at (05:00), but get into the merits of the decision at (14:06).  Then somewhere towards the end Nazim reviews obscure Midwestern cherry candy.

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A possibly-obvious preamble: other parties, including Democrats, are also inconsistent and shift priorities based on opportunism. The main thrust of this article is that Republicans are much more consistently opportunistic, to the point that the only reliable party platform it has consistently held in the past few decades is to simply obstruct the Democrats. 

An old example that I can bring to bear is how the party that is most beloved by the National Rifle Association supported and passed gun control legislation under Reagan, when he was governor of California. What on earth would cause this? Because disarming politically active minorities was a bigger priority than their sacred second amendment rights. And before anyone dismisses the Black Panther Party as a violent extremist group, which is how it was painted in mainstream media, it bears noting that most of their fears turned out to be correct: it turns out the police were unfairly targeting black people and the federal government was illegally monitoring them

Even before that, the Republican party’s Southern Strategy was only opportunistic. Before the party leadership to make it an issue because they realized it could drive a wedge between southern voters and the Democratic party, Evangelicals favored abortion rights for women. The Southern Baptists, the largest evangelical organization in the US,  passed resolutions to that end at their Conventions of 1971, 1974 and 1976. However, once the party saw the opportunity, evangelical organizations pivoted and made it a political issue

Despite being the laissez-faire party of economic and personal liberalism, Republicans started and supported the War on Drugs as a way to control minorities during the war and civil rights protests of the 1970s. And not necessarily because they were racist – merely politically convenient

More recently, before the health care framework was implemented in the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, it was originally concocted by the very conservative Heritage Foundation and then adopted by Republican then-governor Mitt Romney in Massachusetts. And while I’ve criticized the legislation before (let’s face it, it’s a gift to the private health care insurance industry to require folks to carry health care insurance), taking it down now has become merely a battle-cry for Republican leadership, even though they decided not to do anything about it when they held both houses in Congress and the Presidency.

Perhaps most recently, the Republican senate majority leader Mitch McConnel, as well as many other Republican Senators, had championed the idea of not even considering presidential appointees to the judiciary, particularly the Supreme Court, during the last year of their term. This was called the Thurmond rule, after the Senator who blocked president Lyndon B. Johnson’s appointment of Justice Abe Fortas as Chief Justice. Oddly, the Republicans only seem to apply it when the president is a Democrat, if at all.

Famously the party of fiscal responsibility, The Republican presidencies have consistently seen increases in the government’s debt, the debt-to-GDP ratio, and economic recessions. To the point where president Trump was not only outspending prior presidents before the Coronavirus epidemic, but even used the epidemic to pass a $1.2 trillion bill while refusing any oversight on it. Further, they’ve perpetrated the myth that lower taxes (the purple line in the graph below is the top income tax rate, and the blue line is the effective average corporate tax rate) boosts the economy, even though it has no impact on median wages or employment (the red line in the graph below).

chart

Of course, no party can stay in power without voter support. Again, like the other main party, the Republican party’s messaging has a significant impact on its supporters. However, it is either more effective, or the supporters have similarly malleable positions on policy, depending on whether their party favors or opposes it at any given point in time. For example: 

I’d love for this observation to age horribly, or even be inaccurate, because I personally espouse many of the ideologies that Republicans have occasionally espoused, and have frequently voted for Republicans. But, as of late 2020, it seems very much to be the case that obstructionism is the only ideology the Republicans consistently espouse.